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Churches Committee
Kent Churches - Architectural & Historical Information

 St Mary Church, Stodmarsh         TR 221 606

Tim Tatton-Brown's Survey 1996

LOCATION: In a remote situation, about 5 miles north-east of Canterbury at the end of the ridgeway running north-eastwards between ‘the Great Stour and Lampen Stream. The church is on head-brickearth at only about 14 feet above O.D. There is a small village around a triangular green, to the southwest of the church. Stodmarsh Court is c.1/3 mile to the west, and Wickhambreaux is c.11/2 miles to the south.

This church was quite heavily restored in the late 19th century (Nave, 1888-9 by Cowell and Bromley of Canterbury, and chancel in 1891), and virtually all the fittings in the church date from this time (pews, choir stalls, floor-tiles, font, etc.,) as does the south porch and renewed top (and shingle work) of the bell-turret. The whole of the north wall of the nave was also refaced in 1888-9, and all the dressings of the north and south windows were renewed in Bath stone, as were many of the external quoins of the nave, including the western angle-buttresses. The chancel quoins and external window-jambs were also mostly renewed with Bath stone in 1891. Internally the nave walls were re-rendered/plastered in l888-9, but not the chancel walls. The boarded ceiling in the chancel, and perhaps the thin wall under the Rood Screen also perhaps date from 1891. The pulpit was given in c. 1900.
   Despite all of this, the church still retains several very fine medieval features. The earliest part of the present fabric is the 12th century north and south walls of the nave, which contain one original splayed window on the south-west. This is of Caenstone, and is round-headed internally, but slightly pointed externally (hence perhaps a later 12th century date). The flint quoins on the south-east side of the nave (butted by the 13th century chancel south wall) may in part be original 12th century work, though the original quoins here were probably of Caenstone.
   There are two loose architectural fragments on the southern ground-plate in the vestry, which have relief decoration on them of a mid-12th century date (compare the font in St. Martin’s church, Canterbury - 4 miles away to the south-west). They may be fragments from an earlier font. One fragment has parts of two engaged cushion capitals, while the other has interlocking circles with pellets, and appears to be a rim fragment.
   The chancel was rebuilt in the mid-13th century at about the time when the church was given to the Poor Priests’ Hospital Canterbury, with pairs of lancets in the north and south, and east walls (the latter pair being larger). There are also the remains of the probably contemporary piscina (south-east) and aumbry recess (north-east) in the chancel. The internal jambs of all the windows and rere-arches are of chalk block, while externally (now only visible on the north), the jambs were of Reigate stone. Quite remarkably the eastern lancet in the north wall still contains all its 13th century grisaille glass. The upper section of another grisaille window also survives in the south wall of the chancel. Underneath the west lancet of the north wall, at external ground level, there are traces of a flint relieving arch. This possibly indicates an earlier (or ?contemporary) burial here under the north wall. Nothing of this is now visible inside. The chancel walls were originally rendered externally.
   The south doorway of the nave, which is a plain pointed arched doorway with a continuous flat chamfer, was also probably a 13th century insertion. It has a mass-dial, and various crosses cut into the jambs, and is made of Caenstone, as are the internal jambs.
   At some time perhaps in the earlier 14th century, the west wall of the nave was demolished, and rebuilt slightly further westwards with diagonal buttresses. One can still see the long Ragstone ties on the north and south sides. Of this date is the now boarded-up (internally) west doorway, and the two-light trefoiled window (with square head) above. This window has jambs of Caen and of late Victorian Bathstone, while the doorway below has internal Caenstone jambs, and worn Reigate stone jambs and arch outside (with a continuous hollow chamfer). Unfortunately quite a few of the stones were replaced in the 1980’s with Lepine stone. This mechanically cut material now stands proud of the rest. There are carved head stops on either side of the doorway, externally, in Reigate stone (north) and Caen (south).
   Inside the west end of the nave is a fine timber frame on four massive posts on raised ground-plates (the latter probably replaced in 1888-9). On the north and south sides are large scissor braces, while to the east and west are large arch-braces with moulded caps below which support the timber-frame (now above a boarded ceiling). In this bell-turret, which was restored externally in 1888-9, are two ancient bells: a late 16th century treble inscribed ‘Above all things love God’, and a very early tenor, inscribed ‘Ave Maria Gracia Plena’, possibly of 13th century date. The area under the bell-frame is now a curtained-off vestry.
   Although the two-light north window in the nave was largely re-made in 1888-9, its traceried top still contains some c. 15th century stained glass canopies. Hasted describes this glass, still complete in the late 18th century as ‘the figure of the blessed Virgin, crowned, with the child in her arms; and the figure of a woman, with the head of an old man lying on her arm; both beautifully done’. Sadly all this has gone.
   There is a brass indent in the nave, from which a brass inscription (now on north wall) was taken it says: ‘Here lieth Willian Barnedyle gentleman the which William died the X day of July in the year of oure Lord thousand cccclxiiii (ie 1464) on whose sowll 1.H.S. have mercy. Amen’. The two bay crown-post roof over the chancel, and the three-bay crown-post roof over the nave are both probably of 15th century date. The earliest south porch (replaced in the 1888-9 restoration), may also have been 15th century. There are also two grave-markers (?in situ) outside the south wall of the nave (Recorded by Ben Stocker).

BUILDING MATERIALS: (Incl. old plaster, paintings, glass, tiles etc.):
The original nave walls are of flint-rubble with Caenstone dressings. The 13th century chancel had Reigate stone external dressings and chalk-block internal dressings. Some Ragstone as well as Reigate stone was used for the 14th century west wall dressings. Much Bathstone was used for dressings in 1888-9, and uncoursed flintwork in the refaced nave north wall. In the 1890’s Lepine stone was used for the west doorway. The original 13th century glass has been mentioned above.

Good wall monument on north side of chancel to William Courthope (ob.1727). Various grave-markers of his family lie below.

Size & Shape: Rectangular area around church.

Condition: Good.

Boundary walls: Modern flint + brick wall on west.

Ecological potential: Yes, some quite large trees in the churchyard.

HISTORICAL RECORD (where known):
Earliest ref. to church: 1243.

Late med. status: Vicarage and appropriated to Poor Priests’ Hospital, Canterbury c. 1243.
Patron: St. Augustine’s Abbey, till given to Poor Priests’ Hospital, Canterbury in 1243. Then to the Archdeacon of Canterbury after the Reformation.

Other documentary sources: Hasted IX (1800), 145-7. An Anglo-Saxon charter, dated A.D.686 (earliest copy in B.L.Cotton, Jul. Dii fo.131 (13th century) gives land on ‘Fordstrete’ and marshland at Stodmarsh to St. Augustine’s Abbey (Sawyer No.9), but Thorne’s Chronicle says the first grant to the Abbey was in A.D.673. Test.Cant. (E.Kent,1907), p.323 has burials in churchyard, 1491 + 1495, and in the church ‘afore the font’ 1497. Also the rood loft (1491 + 8), + Lights, of Our Lady (+ Image), St.Katherine St. Lawrence, St.Nicholas + ‘the Torches.’ Also ‘To the making of a new Roodloft’ and the reparation of the church ‘(1497) + ‘ to a beam before the Rood loft (1498).

Finds from church/churchyard: 2 architectural fragments in western vestry of mid-12th century date - ? from font.

Inside present church: Good.

Outside present church: Good - only a shallow drainage gulley around outside of Church.

To structure: Renewal of jambs of west doorway in ? Lepine stone, 1980’s.

Quinquennial inspection (date/architect): -

The church and churchyard: A small church with continuous later 12th century nave and mid-13th century chancel, and an early 14th century rebuilt west wall of the nave with an internal timber bell-frame holding 2 inscribed bells (one ? 13th century). The chancel still contains one complete and the top of a second stained-glass window in grisaille (mid 13th century). 15th century crown-post roofs in nave and chancel, and the whole church fairly heavily restored in the late 19th century.

The wider context: One of only a very few Kent churches with surviving 13th century grisaille glass and a bell. The western bell-frame can be compared with those in the nearby Stourmouth and Hoath churches, and probably Westbere (now gone).

REFERENCES: R.Marks, Stained Glass in England during the Middle Ages (1993). 129 - 137

Guide Book: Brief leaflet.

Photographs: Kent Churches 1954, p.87 has a view of the north wall of the chancel, showing the two lancets, with relieving arch below. View of church from south-west in T. Oyler, Parish Churches of Canterbury Diocese (1910), 33.

Plans & drawings: Petrie view from south-east in 1801, showing earlier porch.

DATES VISITED: 9th March 1982 and 2nd October 1996            REPORTED BY: Tim Tatton-Brown

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